This Week on ….

AKA Mercury In Retrograde, lol

C’mon 2/20!

@nikkialiah | Linktree

Had to add the lyrics- she was really speaking some truth:

Earth Is Ghetto

Aliah Sheffield

EARTH IS GHETTO LYRICS

[Verse 1]
Earth is ghetto I wanna leave
Can you beam me up I’m outside on the street
By the corner store , you know the one on 15th
Got a bright shirt on so I’m easy to see
I been down here stranded Indefinitely
I can’t reach my planet but I need to leave
You should see these people It’s hard to believe
How they treat each-other It’s hard to conceive, ohh

[Chorus]
Earth is ghetto I wanna leave, ohh
Earth is ghetto I wanna leave
I wanna leavе

[Verse 2]
They got the hungry starving nothing to eat
And thе homeless living out on the street
And the sick are dying Crooked police
Politicians lying Criminals on the street
I got five on fuel if you need it from me
I’ll sit in the back if we riding too deep
Better lock the doors, these people lie steal and cheat
Roll the windows up, so we can head out in peace, ohh

[Chorus]
Earth is ghetto I wanna leave, ohh
Earth is ghetto I wanna leave
I wanna leave
https://70514d1c239925cd2688c20eccd5a1f1.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
[Verse 3]
I been down here stranded Indefinitely
I can’t reach my planet but I need to leave
You should see these people It’s hard to believe
How they treat each-other It’s hard to conceive, ohh

[Chorus]
Earth is ghetto I wanna leave, ohh
Earth is ghetto oooh
Earth is ghetto
I wanna leave

[Outro]
Earth is ghetto I wanna leave, ohh
Earth is ghetto oooh
Earth is ghetto
I wanna leave

Empath 2

The first time it happened I didn’t even know it was happening. Even after I looked in a mirror and the face I’d come to finally accept was gone it took some time before I really believed it. Like three bodies later. That was when I finally accepted it. It was real.

I felt something different each time I jumped, but the strongest feeling which wasn’t something I could control. It never changed. The feeling, I couldn’t describe, I just knew it had always been there. I thought everyone felt the same thing until one day I realized they didn’t. I realized I was different.

The first body I jumped into was an old man. The reason: he wouldn’t leave me alone. I’d go to the store and he’d be there. I’d go to school he’d be across the street. At first I thought nothing of it- of him. I figured it was a coincidence at first.

I was ten, the same age as my daughter. I didn’t know evil existed then.

I finally took notice when I saw the old man standing outside my house. Then he was on my porch, and then he was inside my house. Before he touched me I already knew what his intentions were.

It was like his thoughts were my own. That was my first time jumping. I knew instantly what he planned to do to me, and what he would say if he was caught. I was terrified, I remember that. I was scared paralyzed by it then suddenly I wasn’t.

My fear evaporated and in its place I felt only excitement. My insides tingled with it. I know now it was him I felt. They were his feelings, but at the time I thought it was me.

Instinctively, I latched onto the feelings of excitement. It felt weird but good. I just knew it was much better than my fear so I ignored what I felt and followed the good feelings. It didn’t take long for me to make the transfer.

What I remember most was the heat. It felt like I was sweating from the inside out. My face, my eyes, my skin, my bones, my entire body was on fire. I know now that feeling was me taking over. It was me killing him.

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Matter is funny that way. No two souls, I learned can ever exist together. One has to leave in order for the other to live. That’s how I did it. It was how I took someone’s body over. There was never a fight, just a shock then acquiescence as I took control melted into what was them and eased them out. I locked in on their emotion whatever it was then I squeezed in and that’s when the burn began. I burned them with my heat. Sometimes I thought I could hear them scream as they left their body like toothpaste from its tube. Then just like that they were gone, and it was just me. Where they went I didn’t know, but their body was mine afterwards for as long as I wanted or needed it.

Afterwards I remember looking down at the girl on the ground. The little girl was me, or what was left of me. The old man’s hands were still wrapped around the throat of my ten year old body.

I remember thinking it was all a dream. A really weird and wild dream that I couldn’t wake from no matter how badly I wanted to.

I didn’t know what to do, so I ran. I ran and ran until I couldn’t run anymore.

The old man wasn’t the only kill I made that day. Initially I thought I was still sleeping and having some trippy dream. So I figured if it was a dream I might as well see what else I could do. I’d taken two more bodies before I admitted it wasn’t a dream, but it took me years before I figured it all out- what I could do.

My mind played tricks on me for a while. I drifted. I had no one to talk to, nothing to live for other than my work. There was no one until Caitlynn. 

My life had been an unwanted battle against evil before her. I saved many lives, but I killed many more to do it. I died more times than I cared to remember, but when Caitlynn came along it all changed. I gave birth to a living metronome. Caitlynn kept me in sync with the world around me.

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She was my anchor, my rock. I could no longer be pulled into the lives of people without leaving her behind, and that I wouldn’t do. I couldn’t leave her behind like I’d been left behind.

I’d created a life for her, and I didn’t want to lose it. I wouldn’t lose it.

I had to get her back, but first I had to find her.

####

I saw the flashing lights ahead, the car at the bottom of the embankment off the highway its hood hidden by the trees as if it had been run off the road. Traffic was at a crawl but I pulled next to the first responder cars.

As soon as the black and white cruiser came to a stop I was out and running. I knew it was Caitlynn. She was close. I could feel her. I ran hard and fast but before I could make it to the car I was tackled to the ground.

“Miss,” I heard a man yelling as I clawed at the gravel. “Miss stop it’s over, she’s gone,” he yelled, but I wouldn’t stop I couldn’t. My Caitlynn wasn’t dead. She couldn’t be. I elbowed the officer in the face stunning him and once again I was on my feet running towards the car and its trunk which was gaping wide open.

Empath 3

“For God’s sake someone stop her,” I heard the officer shout. I ran faster.

I knew before I got to the trunk, but when I stood over it I could only blink wanting my eyes to be wrong, but the sight of Caitlynn’s bruised lifeless form would not vanish. The officer’s words, caught up to me. “She’s gone.”  

“We caught him,” the officer said softly from behind me. His nose was dripping blood, but I felt no ill will coming from his hulking body. There was only grief and a burning anger but it wasn’t directed at me.

“He’s going down for this. I’m taking him in myself.” I looked over to where an old man lay face down in the dirt. I heard his sobs, saw the apathetic officers standing over him. I felt their anger and indignation. I could also feel the old man’s confusion.

“Can I drive back with you?” I asked the officer. “I need, I need….”

“Of course, ma’am we can get you back,” the officer said. “I’ll get an officer to take you home, or wherever you want to go,” he said nodding emphatically as his hand touched my back. Even the light brief pressure irritated me but I forced myself to not cringe.

Caitlynn’s body was removed, then the car. I watched it all from the passenger seat of the cruiser the officer had put me in. I watched the old man being placed in the back of the police car a few feet in front of me. 

We followed behind the cruiser carrying the perpetrator to jail for several miles in silence. When the officer put his blinker on to exit I latched onto him before he could turn off the highway. I didn’t have to move a muscle. One second I was slouched against the passenger window the next I was behind the wheel driving.

I sped up turning off where I saw the cruiser in front of me exit shaking off the burn that always happened when I jumped. It didn’t take long to catch up to them. They’d pulled off on a secluded dirt road off the main highway. When I drove up behind the cruiser I saw the officer had the old man over the hood of his car his fist slamming into the man’s face over and over again. I turned on my flashers and the officer looked up stunned. The old man slumped to the ground.

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I watched the officer kick the man before walking to me. I reached into the car for the police radio. “Officer down on Crystal road, “I said before exiting the vehicle.

“What the hell are you doing?” the officer said as he walked towards me wiping his bloody hand on his handkerchief.

I felt his lingering rage. I latched onto the irritation he felt. Immediately I felt the familiar falling sensation come. Then I was staring back at the car and the officer’s body I’d just occupied lying on the ground. I turned and walked to the black and white cruiser. My fists were stinging and still bleeding, but I ignored it. The old man blinked up at me.

Searching my pockets for the keys to the handcuffs I unlocked the old man’s hands. Immediately he wrapped his arms around me.

“I’m scared Mama,” he said his voice gruff and watery as his arms squeezed me tight.

“It’s okay Caitlynn, Mama’s here now,” I said as I put the old man in the front seat of the cruiser. I climbed into the driver’s seat putting the officer’s shades on.

I looked over at Caitlynn. I could feel the confusion radiating from her. “Don’t worry, it won’t be for long honey. Mama’s got you.”

“But how?” she said her cloudy gray eyes blinking back tears.

“Ssshh,” I said starting the car. “We’ve got a lot to do, and not much time to do it in.”

Within minutes we were back on the interstate in search of a fresh start, and new lives.

Empath 1

A small crowd of nosy passerby and would be customers huddled in the parking lot beneath Safeway’s overhang. There were whispers of made up gossip and speculation, but no one knew nothing for sure of what really happened.

The laughing little girl with the pretty ribbons in her hair was gone. That was the only that was certain. The still shocked store keeper said she’d been taken by the boogeyman, but no one knew what that meant either. Though the police weren’t calling it foul play just yet the neighborhood had locked itself down. Now they just watched and waited. For what? No one could say.

No one saw when she disappeared from the tiny store or what direction she’d been taken, but when she hadn’t returned home to her mother and ten minutes stretched to twenty, then thirty, Mama knew something wasn’t right. Mama knew her baby was missing. No one asked how. A mother always knows, they all thought. In this case they were right.

Everyone converged on the popular corner store. The cops were called, but they had nothing. However, the child’s mother was already making her plan.  

####

MAMA:

I could feel it.

She was gone. The only reason I hung around was because her scent was still so strong. It was the scent of fear thick and musty. Someone was wearing my daughter’s fear like a bad coat of paint that couldn’t be stripped away, but I would find them- and I planned to make them pay.

I made several passes through the crowd. Mostly gawkers their morbid curiosity ferocious in part because of her age. Cute little ten year old girls gone missing always brought them out, and each of them had their own suspicion.

It was that crazy guy that lived in the lot one street over.

It was the pimply kid that worked at the burger joint on 5th and John.

It was that teacher that got fired a few years ago for posting naked pictures online.

It was me.

I didn’t blame them. Speculation made them feel safe. If they could put a face and a name to the boogeyman then they could avoid him or her, protect themselves and their kids; but I knew from experience that never worked. It was always the person you least suspected. The real boogeyman never looked scary they didn’t show their scars which was how they were able to do what they did. It was how they remained hidden in plain sight. It had been my duty for more decades then I cared to remember to find them and catch them.

I policed the people that made things go bump in the dark. I was their judge and jury.

At an early age I realized I could see inside the souls of people and find the thoughts that made Normal people cringe and create lies to hide their fear.

I gave all that up when I had Caitlynn. I denied my ability, ignored my feelings. I was her mother and that was enough.

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THE POLICE:

“Ms. Reign we have expanded the search to include the entire neighborhood all the way down to the high school grounds. We’ve called in a helicopter to circle out from our start point here at his store,” the officer spoke softly, but his shrewd gray eyes watched her every move. He didn’t trust anyone.

Mama accepted that. It was his job. Mama had no desire to try and convince him otherwise. Because she’d already locked in on the girl. She knew where her daughter was.

There was a little girl name Christal. She was a year younger than my daughter all eyes and baby fat. She’d seen my daughter, actually brushed against her. That was how my daughter’s scent transferred to her, but the little girl was scared. She hadn’t said a word to anyone about what she’d seen, and I knew she wouldn’t. Luckily I’d absorbed all I needed to know.

“Yes, sir,” I said to the arrogant cop. “Have you set up roadblocks on the highway, called an Amber Alert?” The officer blinked. He looked surprised for a moment, but his voice remained cool.

“Like I said we’re searching the perimeter. Your daughter went missing less than an hour ago. We’re taking steps using protocol. Hopefully, we’ll find her playing at a friend’s house.”

“Caitlynn doesn’t have any friends,” I said. The cop paused for a second. In a flash I knew his story. He was new to the area as well and in over his head. “We just moved here,” I lied and the cop visibly relaxed.

“Well, if you could give any pictures you have of your daughter to Officer Pam over there, we would be very thankful.” I took the detective’s card and nodded before he lumbered away.

Officer Pam was stuffing another hostess cake in her already engorged cheeks her jowls jumping as she talked with the manager inside the small convenience store.

Calmly, I walked to an idling police car throwing my purse on the passenger seat before sliding inside. Within seconds I was peeling out of the parking lot. 

####

“She’s gone sir,” Officer Pam said eyes searching the lot once again in search of the mother and her issued vehicle. “Someone said she left about ten minutes ago? Headed towards the interstate?” Pam had a way of ending each sentence on a high note as if she were asking a question. It was annoying, but he’d learned to keep his thoughts about it to himself. He was leading this case. It was his first time being in charge on a new job, and the last thing he wanted was to mess it up because of personnel issues, but this went above and beyond. Leaving your keys in a running vehicle? Who did that? His officers apparently.

“I’ve called in an APB on your cruiser,” he said. “And an Amber. The girl has met the qualifications and we’re not getting anything done here.”

Every officer in the state would be on the lookout for the missing girl and her mother. It was off to a rocky start, but he hoped it would end well- this time.

He’d heard of a similar case last year just around this same time. Only that case had been in the northern part of the state. Little girl missing from convenience store, just disappeared. The child was later found dead from unnatural causes.

The last thing he wanted was for this girl to suffer the way the other child had. It was pure evil what had happened to the child up north. His breakfast almost came up on him at the memory from just seeing the pictures. The blood, the dismemberment it was the work of a maniac.

He sent up a silent prayer before joining the others. It was all he could do. 

####

The Watchers 34… the end

Until then though, I would watch

            “What would you like us to do, ma’am,” the agent said on the other end of the line.

            Liza watched the crawl of images and words on the wall of screens before her. The images sped by but she took it all in. She would make her decisions based on the information she saw. Using it and statistical analysis Liza made decisions for a variety of scenarios occurring in real time around the world. It all occurred in rapid fire succession over and over again all day every day.

The statistics were only a small part of her decision making. She used them, but she didn’t always follow them. The ultimate decision was always hers.

It took more than mathematics to predict human behavior because there were too many factors that could change the pattern in a blink of an eye.

            “Take him, and tag him, then call me,” Liza said into the phone before ending the call.

Standing she stretched before walking away from the desk. However, before she did, she hit a button beneath it to signal her second in command that she was not monitoring.

The screens had to be watched at all times. Whether by her or someone else, 24/7 there were eyes on them making decisions about everything from court cases to war room strategies. She had trained a few to watch for her, but none that she trusted implicitly. No one she trusted who would look for what she looked for and report to her the most pertinent information.

            The cameras she watched were beamed to her from satellites high in the sky. They each gave a view that was necessary and needed to be watched. That’s who she was- a Watcher and she was the best.

            Liza’s only worry at this point was that she didn’t have a replacement- yet. Every watcher had to choose someone because there was so much to learn. Her time to choose was coming soon.

As she’d been chosen, Liza had to choose so the grooming could begin. The Master watcher before her was the Mastermind. With his death she took his place, as he’d always known she would. She was the only one who knew what he knew and that knowledge he’d passed to her was invaluable. Liza knew now it was the real reason she’d been kept alive even after she’d run.

            She regretted nothing though.

Liza knew when her replacement came of age and learned all they could learn she’d probably suffer a similar fate all watchers had. With the enormous weight of responsibility inevitably came resentment, and that resentment had to be spent.

This was not a job of love it was one of necessity. Emotions were not a part of it, could not be. They did what they had to because someone had to do it.

They had relationships with every government; every organization that made sure the world woke up in the morning and went to sleep at night.  They kept order of the entire mess. Without them there would be chaos.

They did what they did so the world could keep turning with clean hands and a clear mind.

            They were the boogeymen that controlled the things that went bump in the night, and created the bumps.

Returning to her desk Liza hit the red button once again and the screens brightened just a fraction brighter signaling she was back to the others. There was one in particular she was interested in.

In the far right corner two rows over there was a screen in color. It had been years, three in fact since she’d begun watching the family smiling into the camera. Using the wireless mouse, Liza pulled the screen closer then hit the volume.

            “Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Kayla, happy birthday to you.” Liza watched as little Kayla cooed reaching for the birthday cake sitting in front of her.

Her parents Blackfoot and Trina stood over her as her chubby little golden-brown hands squeezed the cake between her fingers then into her mouth.

            Liza smiled as she heard other voices. There was Zuri smiling at her baby sister and Liza heard Leena’s loud voice from somewhere off camera.

A moment later Leena passed by in her new beau’s embrace.  They looked so happy and at peace. Smiling, Liza watched for longer than she intended but she couldn’t help herself.

She’d done that. For the rest of her life if nothing else she knew she’d brought her sister happiness and something she’d never have- a family of her own.

            Liza pulled the screen to the front not ready to turn away just yet. She monitored all of the hot spots around the world, but her eyes kept returning to the scene in the Davenport’s kitchen, and little Kayla.

            She was a beautiful brown eyed little girl. She had her mama’s good looks, and her father’s curiosity.

That one’s going to be fierce, Liza found herself thinking once again of the little girl. Again and again her eyes returned to the screen until it went dark as the family moved from the kitchen to their bedrooms for the night.

Liza hadn’t approved more cameras in the house- not yet. She’d given the new family their privacy, but she would- eventually.

            Little Kayla had just turned two, but she was already making plans for her niece. She was a healthy little girl, but there was something in her eyes she could already see.

Her intelligence and strength made her stand out. Kayla was a fighter just like her auntie. Like every fighter, they had to be taught of their potential. Just as she was taught, Liza would have to teach Kayla.

            Not now, of course. They had time, but Liza knew there would come a day when she would introduce Kayla to what she would become.

Until then though, she would watch.

When the time was right, then Liza would reveal herself, and teach Kayla who she really was. The best Watcher Central had ever seen.

The End.

The Watchers 33

She knew her sister.

            It was sunny and warm. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. It was her wedding day, a first for the Davenport girls. Although they looked nothing alike the two young women were sisters if not by blood then by bond.

            They’d learned things about each other in the past few months that neither had known about the other their entire lives.

            “Trina,” Leena called from the front room. Trina ran to the living room still in her robe to see what Leena was yelling about.

            “What in the world,” she said walking into the front room. There was a huge box sitting in the middle of the living room.

            “It just arrived. The tag says it’s for you,” Leena said smiling.

Immediately Trina thought of Liza, but she said nothing. The woman had given her so much as it was, she couldn’t imagine anything else from her especially after all this time.

It had been a year since she’d last seen or spoken to Liza. Since then it was as if the woman had dropped off the face of the earth.

            She’d known better than to go looking for her. Besides Liza had warned her not to try. She said for her safety and the safety of Leena and Zuri she had to leave.

If it hadn’t been for the weeks she’d spent locked in that basement, Trina wouldn’t have believed it, but she knew better than to second guess Liza.

            Truth be told she was scared of the woman. She was her sister, yes, but by blood only. Liza had saved her, but she had also been her captor.

It was a truth that she knew not to forget. Nonetheless, without her she wouldn’t have the life she now had. It was a humongous price to pray, but she was hard pressed to say she would trade her current situation for anything else.

            “I think I’m going to need something to get into it,” Trina said her voice more breathless than she meant it to be.

            “Wait, let me find some scissors,” Leena said smiling. As soon as she left the room, Trina attacked the box. She didn’t know what she’d find, but whatever it was she wanted to see it without witnesses.

Pulling at the tape she opened the seam at the top. Tearing open the lid she saw it was full of the Styrofoam popcorn that meant there was something breakable inside. Scooping out the white foam kernels, Trina quickly uncovered the top of the glass figurine.

            “Couldn’t wait, huh,” Leena said disappointment in her voice. However, a second later her voice was filled with awe.

“Good lord, it’s beautiful.”

The two women carefully pulled the glass figurine from the box. It was wrapped in more Styrofoam but the colors of the hand-blown glass were visible. As they removed the Styrofoam from around it carefully, they unveiled the treasure.

            It stood about three feet tall and it showed the busts of a man holding a beautiful woman holding a child. It was a figure of emotion more than actual detail and the colors of the rainbow blending perfectly to reflect it in a marriage of light and love.

            “Oh, Trina, who sent that to you,” Leena said tears in her voice as she walked around the figurine on the kitchen table. “It positively glows,” she said.

            “It’s alright,” Trina said with a smirk but she too was impressed. Reaching for the card she read it aloud.

            For the beautiful family as you begin your new adventure. May you hold each other close through the years. Protect each other, love each other because that is what truly matters. LW

            “Who is LW,” Leena asked touching the figure with the tips of her fingers.

            “I have no idea,” Trina said smoothly. “Probably some fan. It seems a bit much though. You think we should keep it?”

            “Girl, if you don’t you crazy. This is a work of art,” she said. “This should really be in a museum, an art gallery something.”

            “Yeah, it should,” Trina said, but she knew that was not what was intended. LW, she thought to herself smiling. The figurine was Liza all the way. It was over the top and overbearing, but at the same time classic. It was timeless, and the thought of giving it away or hiding it away she knew she’d never be able to do nor was that Liza’s intention. She knew her sister.

            Walking closer to the centerpiece, Trina looked at it carefully. She followed the lines from top to bottom from all angles.

She knew Leena was watching her, but she wasn’t concerned. She circled it twice admiring the lines, the colors, and the care it took to make their likenesses so real.

It was a bust of Blackfoot her soon to be husband, herself, and Zuri. It was a magnificent piece of art that she knew both Blackfoot and Zuri would get a kick out of when they saw it.

            Once she made her way to the base of the structure that was when she found it.

At the base there deep within the bust was a darker structure from where all the colors combined into black. It was the beginning or the end depending on how you interpreted it, but either way, Trina was sure she could see a small rectangular structure that passed through the entire base.

Anyone else who saw it would have thought it was just part of the work created by the artist, but Trina knew better. She’d seen that same structure months ago in the shed she lived in 24/7.

            Liza had told her the night she’d left the Davenport house for good, the last night she’d seen her that she would always be watching.

She’d said, “don’t you worry, I will always be here in one way or another.” Trina now understood.

Strangely, it didn’t bother her. If anything, she felt heartened that they would always be safe.

            The life Liza lived, Trina knew was dangerous, because for a moment she’d been touched by it. It was that night at the dance. It was the night Liza left and one of her agent’s pulled her to the side to inform her that Liza had gone for good.

That brief moment she’d felt an imprint was made. She always wondered if the people Liza dealt with on a daily basis would one day visit her doorstep, now she knew Liza had thought the same thing.

This was a way for her to keep an eye on them. It was a small price to pay for knowing they would be safe because Liza would always be there keeping watch over all of them.

The Watchers 32

I wanted to be normal for once.

            “Did I tell you how beautiful you look, Trina?” Blackfoot said his eyes darting back and forth from the road to the passenger seat.

            “Well, let me see. Once when I walked in the room right after you stopped mid-sentence talking with my sister, which was pretty rude, I must say,” she said laughing. “Then you turned and said “wow, Trina you look absolutely beautiful,” as we were walking to the door to go to your car, then I believe you wolf whistled at me for a good minute when I was getting into the car.”

“Wolf whistled,” he laughed.

“Yeah, like the cartoons,” she said before demonstrating. “Then about five minutes ago again, and two minutes after that, and then just now. So yeah, you’ve said it plenty.”

            “Good because I meant it,” Blackfoot said.

            Traffic was heavy, but the weather was clear so they made good time getting to the venue. When they pulled up to the Coliseum there were a few police cars outside but it was to be expected. This was a high-profile event for the city.

“That would be me probably if I wasn’t with you,” Blackfoot smiled looking out the window at the black and white cars.

“Making a few extra bucks, huh? Handsome and thrifty.”

“Yup that’s me,” Blackfoot said, “Pretty and cheap.”

“Not too cheap I hope,”

“Hah,” he laughed as he parked the car next to one of the cruisers. Blackfoot wore a black suit but a few men had gone for the full tuxedos. Regardless they were sure to cause a scene walking in together: the bad girl gone good and the good cop gone bad. 

Tonight, she just wanted to enjoy being a girl going out with a boy who liked her just as much as she liked him. She wanted to dance, and drink and enjoy tonight. She wanted to be normal for once.

            “Are you having a good time,” Blackfoot said as they took their first spin on the dance floor.

            “More than you know,” she said, “more than I thought possible.”

            “Good,” Blackfoot said his smile sparkling beneath the white lights. “I was told if I didn’t show you a good time tonight, then I better not show my face again in the Davenport household.”

            “Tell me who, and I will take them down myself.”

            “My lips are sealed,” he said. Laughing he added, “Hey, I need my shins and I think that’s the highest the little munchkin can reach. At least I hope.”

            “Well you don’t have to worry as long as you show me a good time.”

            “Oh, yeah,” Blackfoot whispered.

            “Yeah.”

            “Yeah,” Blackfoot said softly. They stared into each other’s eyes gliding across the floor to the music. Blackfoot was surprisingly light on his feet and kept good time.

            “What is that for?” he asked, catching her smile.

            “What?”

            “That smirk,” he said.

           “Just happy, I guess,” she said as the song ended and the crowd started clapping their appreciation for the live band. She looked to Blackfoot, but he was just staring at her. “What?”

“There’s something different about you,” Blackfoot said. “I don’t know.” Staring at her lips for a second he caught himself. “I like it,” he added finally. They walked back to their table they were sharing with another couple.

            “I’ll get us some drinks,” Blackfoot asked before heading for the crowded bar.

            A face in the crowd caught her attention. It was a man, dark skinned with shortly cropped hair. She didn’t recognize him, but his bold stare made her alert. 

When he beckoned with a nod of his head towards the exit door, she knew she hadn’t imagined it. This was her sign. She hadn’t expected contact so soon, but she knew better than to ignore it.

Looking towards the bar Blackfoot was standing in line for drinks, but there were several people in front of him.

            “I have to run to the restroom,” she said to the woman sitting across from her. “Can you tell him?” the woman waved her off with a smile before she could finish.

Thanking her, she rose from her seat quickly making her way across the floor towards the stranger.

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You are my best creation

            “Bring her to me,” the Mastermind said from the backseat of the black Escalade. “Now,” he said when the driver didn’t move.

A second later he was sitting in the vehicle alone. Looking up from his phone for the first time he glanced out at the quiet street lined with buildings leading away from the venue behind him. 

Once again, he was back in the hellhole named Mississippi. The same place rescued Liza from almost thirty years ago.

            He could hardly believe that after all these years he was back. When he’d found her she was fighting cockroaches for food. Covered in bites from rats and ticks her rebellious nature was fully intact despite the squalor she’d been living in.

She barely spoke and had numerous medical problems as a result of her mother’s inability or lack of desire to take care of her children. He’d rescued both girls, but that hadn’t been his plan.

            His plan was to kill the man her mother had been seeing and he’d done his job.

The girl’s mother was collateral damage which he figured no one would ever see as a loss. The girls by all means should have died with their mother that day, but something had stopped him.

He’d been standing over Liza the barrel of his gun pressed to her temple but he hadn’t pulled the trigger.

            Her eyes never flinched from his never wavered.  In fact, she’d reached up grabbed the barrel and pushed it away. Nothing was said, but he knew instantly there was something special about her- something different. She had spirit, one that even he couldn’t snuff out.

            He’d been on the fast track for years at Central. He knew his trajectory what he was meant for. He’d work a few more years in the field, but he always knew he would move up the ranks and eventually run it all.

It was inevitable, but he had to wait his turn. However, in her eyes that hot summer night he saw something- something that reminded him of his self.

He couldn’t extinguish something with all that potential. So he’d scooped her up wanting to make sure she got the medical attention she needed.

The only time she made a sound was when he attempted to leave without her sister. He went back for Trina and took both girls to the closest hospital. He dropped them at the ER door then left.

            That was supposed to be the end, but he’d waited a distance a way to make sure the two girls didn’t wander away without first getting help. Once they were ushered inside by a couple of nurses he’d left, but he couldn’t leave well enough alone.

For a year he checked back on her making sure she was being taken care of, being fed, and clothed. He followed her trail when she was taken in along with her sister by the Davenports at his request. He followed them closely after that.

            By then she was healthy and was for all intent and purposes a very bright little girl. That spirit he’d recognized in her those years before was still there.

That was when he made his decision. By then he’d moved into the Mastermind position. He had the capabilities to make anything happen so adopting the little girl with the golden eyes with no fear wasn’t very difficult. The only difficult part of it was getting her to forget her former life.

            The past few months showed him he’d failed.

Tonight, he planned to rectify that. She would return to him. She would leave this life behind for good.

She would realize that this was not her world. She was like him, and it was something she’d have to accept. There was no choice. If she didn’t then he had no choice but to destroy everything she was trying to hold onto. She had no choice. She would obey.

            Her skills, her ability were too valuable to lose. He’d put years into training her to be the best of the best. He’d already made his decision. She would be his successor. It might take some time, but it was a fact that she would accept- eventually.

            The vibration of his phone forced his attention from the past. “Sir, we have her,” the voice on the other end of the phone said.

            “We’re coming to you,” the Mastermind said, as the door opened and his driver climbed in.

            “Ten minutes, sir,” the driver said.

            “We’ll meet you in ten minutes,” the Mastermind said before ending the call. “They’re holding her at the venue. Go to the loading dock.”

            “Yes, sir,” the driver said starting the car and putting it in drive. Within seconds they were on the highway in holiday traffic heading towards the town square. Traffic was light.

Inside the warmth of the luxury car the Mastermind took his phone out. Absentmindedly he keyed in his code then looked through his email. He pulled up pictures sent earlier in the night of Liza in her gown. She was with the police officer, her date for the evening.

            Picture after picture showed her smiling. Happier than he’d ever seen her. There were several, but on one picture in particular caught his attention. He’d seen her in all kinds of disguises.

He’d watched her transform herself time and time again. Liza knew how to immerse herself into a part so deep that it was hard to imagine her as anyone else.

She truly was a chameleon. However, no matter what the role, he prided himself on being able to pick her out. It might take some time, it might take some digging, but the pictures never lied. He was always able to see her- his girl.

            Looking at the picture closer he found himself searching for that glimmer he always noticed in her eye. In her latest role of her sister, Trina, she hadn’t had to go too far to assume her sister’s identity yet that something wasn’t there. They were nearly identical, so it was the most like her natural self he’d seen her yet something was off.

            When she started the role of Trina, she assumed the girl’s look, fake hair, garish makeup, too tight clothing. But gradually over several weeks she’d molded the girl more into her image. The pictures showed that. The picture was of a beautiful, young woman confident in her looks and her body. She wore little to no makeup and an appropriate dress classy, yet memorable which was exactly who his Liza was. Yet, he knew without a doubt that this wasn’t her.

            He pressed the phone button on his phone but before he could hit the call button the car swerved to the right and came to a sudden stop.

“Give me the phone,” the driver said turned in the seat gun pointed at the Mastermind’s head. He stared back stunned for a second before blinking several times. When he opened his eyes, he wore his usual calm demeanor once again.

“Very well done,” he said. “I’d say I was impressed if I thought you’d care.”

“The phone,” she said again. The gun never lowered even when he handed the phone over to her.

“You are my best creation,” the Mastermind said leaning back in the leather seat. “You are everything I hoped you would become. I made you.”

“No, you didn’t.” The look of surprise that came over his face warmed Liza’s cold heart, but it was short lived.

“I found you in a crack house your mother was about to sell you and your sister to the next highest bidder. I picked you up and gave you the life you have. You exist because of me,” he said quietly. 

“Don’t move.”

“How dare you!” he bellowed. For the first time in months she remembered what it felt like to smile, but her face remained impassive. “You are who I say you are. You belong to me.”

“I belong to no one,” she said raising her chin.

“You know you don’t stand a chance,” he said. “There’s a car behind us and they’ll be here any second.”

“Well, I guess I better make this quick, huh,” she said her stare as chilly as her heart. The Mastermind smiled, but before he could open his mouth to speak, she fired two shots through his skull.

His body slumped in the seat. A second later she was out of the vehicle. She hadn’t taken a step before being surrounded by agents their guns drawn. The woman looked each agent in the eye nodding at the ones she recognized until each gun was lowered.

“Take care of him,” she said, “dump the vehicle. I don’t want to see it or him again,” she said walking towards the waiting car.

“Yes, ma’am,” an agent said entering the vehicle she’d just exited. Seconds later the scene was clear with her heading in the opposite direction away from downtown and the life that might have been.

Quickly she connected her phone to her newly acquired one, to transfer his files and the address book. Within a couple of minutes, she had the Mastermind’s entire playbook.

Disassembling the phone once she was through, she took the memory chip out and snapped it in two. She tossed the whole mess in her purse to be destroyed later.

“Where to, Ms. Waters,” the driver asked through the intercom.

“Central,” she said.

The Watchers 31

We get caught, we die

            “Get up.”

            Trina looked up from her bed. Shock registered on her face at seeing Liza inside the room with her.

            “Hurry up, we don’t have much time,” Liza said throwing a bag at Trina. “Take what you can carry, but no more.” she said. “Move!”

            Liza watched the change come to Trina’s eyes a second before she launched herself off the bed.

            “What did you do with my family, you bitch,” Trina said her entire body writhing as she clawed and kicked at Liza.

            “I didn’t do anything to them,” Liza said pushing Trina against the wall.

            “Bullshit. They never would have believed you were me- never.”

            “You’re right,” Liza said. “Your mother knew immediately.”

            “She’s not my mother,” Trina spat confirming what she already knew to be true. Trina couldn’t stand the woman any more than she could. “She was never my mother.”

            “Yeah, well that makes two of us.”

            “Consider yourself lucky,” she said her eyes wet with tears. She inhaled deeply. “She told me you were dead,” her voice breaking.

            “Well,” Liza said. “she was half right, but I’m getting better.”

“You can’t beat me. You’re not strong or bad enough. You don’t stand a chance. Fighting is only going to tire you out, and I need you to be able to run.” Liza threw the sack at her but it bounced off her onto the cot.

“Fill it, or don’t. You’ve got two seconds.” 

Defiantly, Trina stood up to her sister.

“Good, let’s go.”

            Outside the smell of kerosene permeated the air. Liza reached for Trina’s hand when she hung back in the doorway.

“You had me in someone’s back yard?” Trina asked incredulously as she looked towards the house and the lawn chairs.

“Move,” Liza said pushing her towards the trees. Once they reached them, Trina was out of breath so they stopped and crouched down in the brush giving Trina the chance to breath.

            “Talk to me,” Trina said, but Liza ignored her as she tinkered with a black box she held.

Liza pulled two wires from the bottom of it then stripped them and wrapped them tightly around each other. Then removing a smooth panel from the top of the box she pressed a button and there was a muffled explosion. Within seconds the top level of the shed they’d just been in collapsed shooting flames several stories into the black night.

            “Let’s roll,” Liza said before taking off in a full run. Trina followed, but wasn’t in near as good shape as her sister. When they came to the edge of a highway Trina fell to the ground.

            “Get up. We’re not done yet,” Liza said with no sympathy in her voice, but Trina refused to stand. “When I say run you better move your ass.” Trina struggled to catch her breath. “You can’t be this weak.”

“Shut the fuck up,” Trina said out of breath. Before she knew it, Liza had backed her against the tree, her hand around Trina’s neck.

“If you don’t run, you get caught. If you get caught, you die,” Liza said watching Trina’s eyes, carbon copies of her own widen. “They will kill you, you understand?”

“Who,” Trina managed to squeeze through her constricted vocal chords.

“The people who made me what I am.”

A siren blared in the distance, but it was going in the opposite direction of where they were headed. Liza released her hold.

“You don’t have a choice in this,” Liza said. “We get caught we die; do you get that?”

Trina stared back at her as the words sunk in replacing her defiance with fear.  “Good girl,” Liza said watching Trina closely. “You good?” At Trina’s nod, the two women took out in a sprint.

            They ran for miles, stopping occasionally for Trina to catch her breath. It was dark and she was shivering her lips blue in the moonlight, but she didn’t quit. They ran along the side of the highway in the shadows, but when they reached the top of the hill that looked down on the city, they left the highway behind.

Soon they were passing streets with houses and the high school Trina had attended years ago. Liza noticed Trina’s pace change as she began to recognize her surroundings. Soon Trina was keeping pace as they came closer to the Davenport house. When she attempted to take the lead, Liza pulled her back roughly pushing her body into a ditch her face inches away from hers. Their breath came out in harsh puffs mingling together in the frigid air.

            “I’m about to give you a second chance,” Liza said staring at Trina’s face. She had a wild look in her eyes. “You do what I say, when I say it and I will let you live. You understand?”

            “Yes or no,” Liza barked when Trina tried to speak. Trina nodded her understanding. Liza stared at Trina for a full minute before she pulled back slightly as if testing Trina’s reaction.

            Weak and scared Trina didn’t move let alone speak. She waited for her next direction.

            “The life you had is no more,” Liza said. “I’ve made sure of it. What you have to understand is the way you were is no more. To your family, your friends the old you no longer exists. This,” Liza said tugging roughly at the mat of synthetic hair on her head, “is no more. The clothes you used to wear are no more. The way you talk, walk, live is no more.” Trina listened, but Liza could tell the words weren’t connecting. The woman’s brain was slow from fatigue and the cold, but Liza needed her to understand before they took another step.

            “You will have to relearn how to be, but if you can do that you can have the life you deserve. Understand?”  Trina nodded knowing it was the only answer that Liza would accept.

            “Good girl,” she said. “When I say jump, you say how high. You do what I say; when I say it if you want to live.”

            That Trina understood. Ever since she’d woken up in that underground cell, she’d been living with the understanding that it could be her last day; Liza had made sure of it. Trina had lived and breathed that truth for all those days when her only contact was a disconnected voice through the intercom.

Now here she was breathing fresh air with a woman that had not only been impersonating her, but had apparently been living her life better than she had.

Trina followed behind LIza pulling the hoodie she wore over her head just as she’d been told to do. When they got to the Davenport’s Trina didn’t even look around the darkened rooms.

She did as she was told and followed behind Liza stopping only once she was told to do so. She was alive and it was because of the woman in front of her. That was all she needed to know now.

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She was burning the boats

            “We procured the package,” the agent said into his headset.   

            “Take care of it,” The Mastermind said. “We don’t know if it was her, but if it was, then she knows everything.” A chill went through the agent’s body. 

The agent climbed into his SUV parked down from the alley where Wilson had been located. After the call ended, he supervised the clean-up crew then made his way back to Davenport’s street.

He parked a little way down from the house. He knew her secret now. Liza hadn’t been as quiet as he’d thought. All those nights they’d thought she was down, she’d been out and about, and only God knew where. She’d killed Wilson, Wilson for god’s sake. The poor bastard wasn’t a threat. Liza’s balls were bigger than her husband’s were.

Now that she’d left her mark though he doubted she’d stay much longer. Central’s handbook taught them to never revisit old haunts. The second safe house he was sure she had was no more. He made another call to the tracking team.

            “Check for any recent fires or structural changes in the area.” Hanging up the phone, he expected to get a call in the next hour.

Once he did, he’d planned to visit the site to see what could be salvaged. There wouldn’t be anything, of course, she was too good, but there was always a chance.

All they could to do was try because as it was, they were just holding their asses in the wind with the little bit of Intel they were getting from the Mastermind. Covering for a woman who every indication exclaimed she had gone rogue.

            “Dammit,” the agent muttered to himself. This wasn’t supposed to happen- not to them, but ever since she’d slipped off radar nothing went smoothly anymore. Worse the big boss had turned them into sitting ducks. His hands were tied and there wasn’t anything he could do about it. If it were him in charge, he would have ordered Liza be taken down, but for some reason He was holding them back.

The vibration of the phone let him know a call was coming in. He picked up the call.

            “Yes, sir,” the agent said.

            “She knows. No status on Trina at this time. Continue your surveillance report any movement. Keep the tail on the Davenports. Blackfoot seems to still be a go, so we prepare for that event. If she tries to slip away on us it will be then. The entire building will be crawling with officers, military. We must isolate her. Understand?”

            “Yes, sir,” the agent listened for more details but the line went dead. Sitting back in his seat he tried to push away the feeling of dread. The ball was tomorrow night.

            He’d like to think they’d catch a break at least once. This entire operation had been a disaster from go, but his gut told him it would end exactly how it began.

            It was almost three months ago that he’d heard Liza went missing. One day she was there the next she disappeared, but what was it to say she hadn’t left sooner than that.

Once the Mastermind exposed her it took them weeks to even get a whiff of a trace. It wasn’t until she surfaced in Mississippi after the incident at the bookstore, they finally got optics on her. Where she’d been all that time, no one knew.

Why she’d popped up in Mississippi of all places no one knew either. At least that was what he believed- at first. He could put a bullet in his own brain for his stupidity because of course the Mastermind knew. He knew the entire time, but as usual kept the information from us the ones with our asses on the line day in and day out.

They’d descended on the small town to find her under the assumed name of Trina Davenport. They’d been playing catch up ever since.

            He still wasn’t sure they had all the information they needed to do their job, but that itself was a part of the job. They each played the part they were assigned with the Mastermind at the helm.

However, this time the pieces weren’t fitting. They weren’t coming together like the other times. As soon as they thought one side was patched the other side would come loose and once again, they were left scrambling to catch up.

            This ball was a mistake. In the past they would have found a way to stop the whole thing from occurring. Burned the venue, orchestrated a counter event, something to make sure this impending cluster fuck could not occur.

            Instead extra agents had been called in, off other cases for something that should have been taken care of months ago. This didn’t have to happen like this, but that wasn’t his call.

            All he could do was play his role and watch his neck. Because by the time it all went down, he had a feeling that heads would be rolling. He just planned for it not to be his.

            Liza had done the impossible. She’d brought Central to its knees. She’d kept the entire team jumping through hoops for the past few months, even Him.

            Realization crashed down on him hard.  Liza was playing for keeps, and she had no intention of coming back- ever.    

            She was burning the boats.

The Watchers 30

You promise not to kill me

Liza felt the stares from the moment she stepped out of the gold Chevrolet, but she wanted them to look. She wanted them to see all of her. For the first time in her life she wasn’t trying to hide. She ignored the sidewalk instead walking across the lawn to the police station.

It was lunch time. Workers were everywhere in their uniforms making their way into the town square for a quick lunch or to get some take out to eat at their desks. Liza waved at a few she recognized from the diner, and they waved back.

Making her way through the doors of the two-story mortar building Liza had a mission to complete. Down the hallway then taking the stairs two at a time. This wasn’t for pleasure, she was dressed for battle.

In her previous life caring about looks wasn’t something she ever did for herself. She dressed as each part required. If she was supposed to attract someone then she found out what attracted them then dressed the part, but she was always playing someone else.

Today for the first time she was in public and all eyes were on her- the real me. It wasn’t Trina she was playing today.

For the first time in her adult life Liza was doing what she wanted to do rather than what was required of her to do. Everyone may see Trina Davenport but they were getting Liza Waters.

Liza found his office easily, but it was empty. She walked the aisles until she spotted him. He was sitting in a conference room in what appeared to be a meeting. The room was crowded with officers dressed in their blues and some in plains clothes.

Blackfoot was standing against the wall facing the windows. Liza made a beeline for the meeting room, hearing the voices as more and more people noticed her. I

            “Ms. Davenport,” Liza heard someone call out from behind me but she kept walking. “Ms.,” the voice said again this time much closer. Liza kept going determined to talk with Blackfoot. Then she felt a hand touch my elbow. She turned surprised to see the gray-haired man Mrs. Davenport and she had met with.

“I’m sorry,” the police chief said raising his hands as if in apology. “Very nice to see you, Ms. Davenport,” the chief said his plastic grin stretching his face. Liza nodded continuing to make her way towards Blackfoot.

            “What can I help you with today?”

            “I actually came to speak to Blackfoot,” Liza said sidestepping away from the red-faced man.

            “Is there a problem,” the chief asked. “has there been another incident,” he said his voice lowering.

            “No, not at all,” Liza said. “I just had something to ask Blackfoot- privately,”

            “Oh,” the chief said shaking his head. “Would you like me to sit in on your…”

            “That won’t be necessary,” she said cutting him off. “Thank you,” The meeting was breaking up and she didn’t want to miss Blackfoot before he left.  Then he spotted her.

One look at his face and Liza knew he hadn’t forgotten.  He was no longer wearing the sling, but the look in his eyes was fire.  Liza had a plan when she walked in the front door, but now she doubted herself. It was a feeling she wasn’t used to having.

            “But Ms. Davenport, I’d be glad to assist you,” the police chief called once more.

            “No thank you,” Liza said not taking my eyes off of Blackfoot.

            “Blackfoot,” Liza called out and he stopped in his tracks.

            Blackfoot stood still with his back turned, but not leaving. Liza walked in front of him.

            “Would you like to go somewhere a little more private?”

            “Are you going to accuse me of kidnapping this time? Assault and battery with a deadly pencil,” he said holding up the No. 2 pencil in his hand.

            “No,” she said. Without a word Blackfoot walked towards the stairs. She kept in step with him all the way down then out the front door. When he finally stopped, they were at the gazebo across from the station in the town square. There was an uncomfortable silence, but it was to be expected. Our last meeting hadn’t gone well, to say the least. There was a chilly wind but the sun was out making it bearable.

            “So, you got me,” Blackfoot finally spoke standing on the edge of the gazebo several feet away from her. She deserved his wariness.

 His reputation had suffered and she hadn’t done anything to stop it from happening either. She hoped it would smooth itself over on its own, but his response said it hadn’t.

It wasn’t until early this morning that she had an idea that she might be able to use it to her advantage.

Pat had followed through with her invitation to the Christmas Ball. When she received the invitation in the mail, the first person to come to mind was Blackfoot.

She’d been attracted to him from their first meeting, but had no intention of doing anything about it. She didn’t need him then.

            “I’m sorry,” Liza said. “I hadn’t said that until now. I didn’t mean to hurt you.” Blackfoot burst out laughing.

            “You’re sorry, huh?” Blackfoot said. “Funny you didn’t seem sorry when you tossed me like a sack of potatoes then lied on me to the chief.”

            “I know, I apologize for that too,” Liza said.

            “You apologize? You know I have a mark on my record? They were this close to demoting me?”

            “No, I didn’t,” Liza said. “I’ll talk to the chief though, anything, I just can’t keep on burning these bridges. It’s time for me to make some changes to my life.”  

            “I saw your interview,” Blackfoot said removing his sunglasses. “It was interesting.”

            “I meant every word. I really am trying to change, evolve.”

            “I can see,” Blackfoot said as he looked her over appreciatively.

            “Look, Blackfoot I came here to talk with you, because I needed to ask a favor,” Liza said ignoring his snort of disbelief. “I know me asking you for a favor is crazy, but here I am asking you… for a favor.”

            “Go ahead,” Blackfoot said.

            “I have this thing to go to, a ball, and although I’ve been in town for a while, I haven’t had much opportunity to, you know, meet many people.  I was wondering if you would go with me.”

Blackfoot’s response was a big bark of laughter that caused several passersby to look in their direction.  

            “You want me to go with you?” he said once, he’d gotten control of his disbelief.

            “Yes, I very much would like that.”

            “You want a date?”

            “Yes.”

            “You really are crazy.”

            “No,” Liza said, “no, I’m not.” Blackfoot looked her over for almost a full minute.

“Yes, yes you are,” Blackfoot said his face suddenly serious.

Liza returned his gaze refusing to fill in the silence. The look on his face told her it was the right thing to do as he seemed to be sizing her up, weighing his options. 

Suddenly he cleared his throat. “Apparently your crazy is catchy,” he said standing. “You promise not to kill me?” he asked a frown on his handsome face.

            “I promise,” Liza said. His response was a brief nod.

            “So, does this mean I’m forgiven?” Liza asked gesturing towards his arm.

            “Don’t push it,” Blackfoot said.

            “Okay,” she smiled before promising to call with more details once she got the tickets. She walked away certain he was still watching me. She could tell he was more than interested in her, even thought she could kick his ass. That made him either stupid or a glutton for punishment, either way Liza was also intrigued. The mutual attraction wasn’t necessary, but it would make what she had to do so much easier.

The Watchers 29

You’ve been you all along, you just couldn’t see it.

REALIGN

“Ms. Davenport I just wanted to thank you for allowing us into your home,” the young female reporter said. The cameraman worked frantically setting up for the live broadcast they were doing for the six o’clock news.

            “You are more than welcome,” she said. “I’m just glad to have this opportunity to let my fans know the changes I’ve gone through over the past few months since returning to my hometown.”

            “Two minutes, Janice,” the cameraman said with one hand on his earphones.

            “Well, let’s make the public fall in love with you again,” Janice said. “You ready?”

            “I was born ready.”

            The interview went quickly. They hit all the major points Liza wanted to address and then a few Janice wanted but she kept her from getting too personal. The recent altercations, the tragic death of her mother, they covered both. By the time it was over even the camera man had tears in his eyes.   

It wasn’t hard playing to the woman’s interest; from head to toe the woman advertised her allegiance to her sorority and all things glamourous. The hardest part was changing the woman’s impression of Trina.

When they were done Janice even asked her to become a part of the Big Sister program her sorority sponsored. She also asked Liza to attend an exclusive ball her organization threw every Christmas. It was only a week away but by the woman’s tone Liza knew she was supposed to feel honored. She made sure not to disappoint.

By the time the interview was finished and the crew had left, Liza knew she’d accomplished what she’d set out to do.

If she was going to stay, there was no way she could continue with Trina’s old bad behavior, and now was the perfect time to try to reach out to people. Get them on her side and stop hating the woman Trina used to be. The only way to do that was to get them to see another side of Trina.

With all the networks seeking content to fill the air between sitcom reruns and Christmas movie marathons it was easy to set up. It took one call to Trina’s manager to get the ball running.

She’d done some fast talking, but once she convinced her she’d turned over a new leaf she was in. It wasn’t like she wanted a spot on the next season of Dancing with the Stars, she just wanted Trina to not be a social pariah anymore. Liza had plans for her long lost sister- big plans. It was going to take baby steps to make the train wreck of a life she’d had into something salvageable, but she’d made up her mind. This was her time now, and she didn’t plan to spend the rest of her life hiding.

            She wasn’t the poor girl born on the wrong side of the tracks that was adopted into the Davenports home- at least not anymore. Nor was she the young woman with a chip on her shoulder that lashed out at everyone and everything.

It was ratings gold. Even Trina’s worst enemies would have to have a heart of stone to not feel sympathy for her after watching the interview. It was all going to plan.

By the end of the news broadcast, Trina’s manager had called saying her phone was ringing off the hook from national press interested in broadcasting pieces of the interview. 

            Even Leena, usually sour, seemed impressed by the reaction. Leena had to turn the ringer off and let the answering machine pick up saying, “let them leave a message, and you can call them back when you feel like it.”

            “Thanks, sis,” Liza said returning Leena’s smile.  

“Oh, you know Blackfoot came into the restaurant this morning.”

            “Yeah?”

            “Yeah,” Leena said her lips pursed. “He asked about you.”

            “Really? What for?” Liza asked ignoring her pointed stare.

            “What you think?” Leena said. “You know you don’t have to act like you don’t care. He’s a nice man,” she said rolling her eyes. “Look I don’t know what that was about that happened between you too, I’m just saying that was completely out of character for him,” she said. Liza couldn’t help notice her emphasis on the word him.

“You know he and his ex-wife had a hard time of it. A few years ago, she left him when he said he wanted to stay here. She wasn’t a local and as soon as she realized he wasn’t leaving she was out of here, but not before she’d slept with his partner.”

“ Dumb bitch,”

 “You telling me,” Leena said. “Anyone who would let that go needs to turn their lady card in. Well, well, well, do I see interest in that face? What?” Leena said.

            “Shut up,” Liza said swatting her with a dish towel.

            “Okay, looks like sister is finally wising up. You could do worse than Blackfoot, way worse. Getting some common sense in there, I see,” she said. “I’m impressed.”

            “As well you should be.”

 ###

It was after midnight when her cell phone rang. Liza didn’t recognize the number, but she knew better than to not answer.

 “Who is this?” 

            “I bet you’re pretty pleased with yourself.” Liza recognized the voice instantly. She prayed for the calmness, but as usual it abandoned her- with him. Heat burned through her veins heavy and fast like a speedball. She sat on the side of the bed her feet resting on the floor.  

            “What you’re doing, you need to stop,” the voice said. “I’ve been very patient, but you have taken one too many liberties.”

            The voice had the robotic tone that Liza would never forget. 

“You weren’t supposed to call me again.” Her voice sounded steadier than she felt, but she didn’t feel pride in that. They both knew it was just a ruse.

            Laughter was his response. “You don’t tell me what to do. You forget yourself,” the voice said.  “Don’t do it again.”

            “Yes, sir.”

            “Finish your fun, take care of the girl, and come home,” the voice said. “Otherwise I might have to…” the sound of a man screaming erupted from the phone.

            “You have a week,” the voice said, “then I’m pulling you in. We still have work to do.”

            “Yes, sir,” Liza said feeling the shadows return the pool of calm lapping at its edges. Then the phone died. She had no doubt of what the Mastermind could and would do. If she didn’t return, she knew he would come for her this time.  

            She could run, or at least try, but no matter what she did it was going to end up the same way.

Liza had planned for this, but she hadn’t planned on the fear she felt. She’d tried so hard to break free of Central, but it seemed it was all for nothing. There was no escaping Him.

Stories centering black women, written by a black woman